How will we fight back against bad traffic tickets for lawful bicycling!?
Please offer some advice; how to best help cyclists contest bad traffic tickets – when a person is inappropriately cited when driving a bicycle as we recommend (Bike League, ABEA, etc.) CABO wants to help fight back. Should we develop a new Legal Defense Fund (LDF) for that purpose? Is there a better way?
Comments may be forwarded to me, CABO President, at email@example.com.
We are considering that monies collected for a LDF will be used toward efforts fighting tickets where cyclists are inappropriately cited. We have already helped other cases, though without incurring costs yet for professional/paid attorney support.
Below is some background and some text we are proposing to help people cited to prepare a defense. [CABO is not intending to provide legal advice or support except through services provided by Calif. Bar approved attorneys.]
At times law enforcement officers (LEO) issue inappropriate tickets or mistakenly harass bicyclists who are riding legally and correctly. When LEOs stop winning cases we expect that they’ll learn not to issue bad tickets. CABO has experience with bad tickets for riding side by side in narrow lanes and bike lanes, for not riding as far to the right as an officer thinks a bicyclist should, for not putting a foot down at a stop sign, and other mistaken reasons. CABO wants to hear about these incidents, help reverse bad tickets and perhaps help law enforcement to do better in the future.
Here are some things we recommend that bicyclists be prepared to do if stopped by a traffic enforcement officer. Again, CABO is not intending to act as or to provide attorney services, but CABO may be able to refer cited bicyclists to attorneys in their area.
Bicycling Ticket Fighting Tips (some elaboration of each follows list):
• First and most important! Follow the Law. Ride correctly as LCIs and CSIs teach.
• When stopped by law enforcement officer (LEO) stay calm and respectful
• Attempting to argue or to correct the LEO is often fruitless. If you try, don’t push it.
• Fully document as much of the exchange and circumstances as you can.
• Although valid ID is necessary, showing your driver license is not required
• Request LEO detail why you were stopped, what she/he saw and exactly where it occurred
• Afterwards document as much of the conversation as you remember
• Carefully photograph the entire situation. Approach, area of alleged violation, conditions and even traffic flow at that time. Perhaps wait to do this until after the officer has left the scene.
• Obtain witness contact information
• If you choose to contest the Ticket, CABO wants to help
First and most important! Follow the Law:
CABO discourages bicyclists from running stop signs, ignoring traffic signals, riding at night without lights and reflectors, wrong-way riding, failing to scan-signal-move safety, etc. Your safety matters and the publics’ perception is very important. Traffic Commissioners and Judges are subject to the same cultural bias as others. They drive on our roads and develop biases from what they see. Going into a trial with a judge having a negative perception of cyclist makes it a steeper fight for all of us. League Cycling Instructors and/or Cycling Savvy Instructors are trained and certified to provide information and training about lawful bicycling and best practices. Your having documentation of completion of bicycling traffic training may help convince a judge that you were intending to be acting lawfully.
Stay calm and respectful:
First, when stopped do not let your emotions get the best of you. There may be an opportunity to just get a warning or even convince the LEO what you were doing was legal, but be very careful – courteous and respectful. Officers deal with whiners and liars daily and most traffic enforcement officers consider their knowledge and opinions unassailable. Arguing is rarely successful.
Valid ID need not be your driver’s license:
You are not required to provide a California Driver License (CDL) for a bicycling ticket but you do need to show valid ID. If you choose to use your driver’s license, politely ask the officer to clearly record that the ticket is for bicycling. If properly entered into the judicial system, the bicycling violation should not assess points against your driving record, which can also affect your auto insurance rates.
Document as much as you can:
If the officer is likely to issue a ticket that you may decide to fight and you want a successful court challenge, use the interaction with the officer to fully document all of the facts that the officer uses to determine the ticket was warranted.
When stopped you may accept the ticket without protest, but politely ask the officer to explain what was observed, why the officer believed there was a violation, and where the officer first observed the violation? If you are with another person, politely ask for the other person to listen but not participate in the conversation. This could provide a witness at a hearing or trial. If the officer refuses, do not argue, but note this for possible use at trial. Immediately after the officer leaves document the entire conversation; use a recording device or paper. Next photograph the scene; include: the road exactly where you were stopped, the road situation exactly where the officer said the violation was observed, the roadway in between, pavement conditions, striping, parked cars, general conditions and even flow of traffic if possible. Get contact info for any witnesses to the situation. These may be good references for the judge. The officer and you may not recall all of the traffic and road conditions many months after the incident.
Use of Documentation:
Gathered information: photos, witnesses, and notes at the time of the ticket is the best evidence. You, or an attorney can use these in your defense.
During trial a great deal of information may be obtained from the officer during cross-examination. Examples are: training deficiency regarding cyclist’s rights of the road, the vagueness of vehicle code, lack of personal bike riding experiences, lack of cycling specific training, etc. The objective being, if found guilty, to get as much evidence favorable to your position into the record if you choose to appeal. Facts not in the trail record cannot be considered during an appeal.
How CABO can help:
Your next step will be deciding whether to pay the fine or challenge the citation. If you wish to proceed, this is where CABO or, more effectively, an attorney may offer to assist appropriate so you may; decide whether to fight, prepare for cross-examination of the officer, ready evidence along with the opinion of experts such as League Cycling Instructors or similar who can substantiate that your riding was lawful.
So, if you want to contest a citation or harassment for actions and/or behaviors we know to be lawful and appropriate, CABO wants to help. Contact CABO President, firstname.lastname@example.org, through your Area Director, or organization’s representative to CABO.
Please help us. Fight back against bad traffic tickets.
Would you like to help us help others by joining and/or donating to CABO? We are in the process of establishing an easy – Paypal – means to donate specifically to our LDF. In the meantime join and/or donate to CABO at cabobike.org.